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Atascadero tourism board approves extending contracts with marketing firms 


new visit atascadero logoCity could request proposals for website firm

–One year into contacts with Big Red Marketing and Verdin Marketing, the city of Atascadero Tourism Business Improvement Board voted to extended contracts with both firms at its monthly meeting last week.

The board is funded the two-percent assessment that is paid by hotel guests. The money is managed by the board that is made up of five members of Atascadero lodging businesses. Currently there are four members: Mayor Tom O’Malley of Portola Inn, Amar Sohi of Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Deana Alexander of Carlton Hotel and J.P. Patel of Best Western Plus Colony Inn.

Big Red Marketing serves as the city’s destination manager to work in conjunction with the business improvement district board, the city, the marketing firm, tourism industry partners and other stakeholders and organizations. Big Red Marketing’s fees are $2,500 per month. In order to get the contract on schedule with other city contracts, which follow the fiscal year from July 1 to June 30. The board approved, 4-0, a contract from March 1 through June 30 for $10,000. Though the contract was extended through 2017, a cost was not determined.

“Prior to June 30, 2016, we’ll look to see if that retainer is working for both sides,” said Big Red Marketing owner Amanda Diefenderfer.

Chairman O’Malley raised a concern of Big Red Marketing also representing Travel Paso as its destination manager.

“There’s no overlap,” Diefenderfer said. “Who I have helping me with Paso Robles, I don’t have working on Atascadero.”

Next, the board looked at the contract with Verdin Marketing, which handles marketing campaigns for the city. To finish out this fiscal year, the budget is $40,000, which includes $5,000 for creative development, $20,000 for media hard costs, planning and placement, $8,500 for social media, e-newsletter and contest management, $1,500 for public relations, $1,000 for website updates and $4,000 for strategy and project management.

For the 2016-17 fiscal year, the budget allocation is $120,000, up from the first year for which $75,000 was allocated.

“We’ve been working on a brand. We’ve established a brand and we launched the brand in November.”

When asked why it would cost $45,000 over the first year, Verdin Marketing Vice President of Client Services and Partner Ashlee Akers said that a lot of dollars weren’t spent prior to November 2015 because the firm was working on the brand, and only worked on one campaign. In the coming year and they will be working on three campaigns.

“Lots of good things coming up for Atascadero,” Akers said.

Part of the allocated budget is revamping To date, a contract has not been entered into with the selected company because of contract negotiations.

“We need to leave it with you guys, but I definitely don’t want to go too far down this if it’s the wrong path,” O’Malley said, and other board members agreed.

The board directed Diefenderfer and Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish to continue working with the company to sign the contract and move forward with the website; however, if they or the city’s IT staff Luke Knight felt anymore “uncomfortableness” then they should advertise for requests for proposals and bring it back to the board at its meeting in February.

Diefenderfer said that even with requesting new proposals, the website could most likely be launched by summer.

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